CD review

Electric Lady Big Band – Electric Lady Big Band

Electric Lady Big Band – Electric Lady Big Band
(www.electricladybigband.bandcamp.com. CD review by Frank Griffith)

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s last studio album, Electric Ladyland (1968) guitarist, vocalist and arranger, Denny Ilett‘s extraordinary 16-piece big band has recreated these classic Hendrix songs.

Ilett is the Artistic Director of the Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival and has collaborated with the likes of Lillian Boutee and Pee Wee Ellis as well as guitarists John Etheridge and Martin Taylor. His big band successfully realises Hendrix’s  reputation as a visionary in a large ensemble setting.

Die-hard Hendrix fans might be aware of the Gil Evans Orchestra 1974 LP, The Music of Jimi Hendrix. This includes a compendium of Hendrix songs,  many of which were arranged by Evans’ bandmembers with only two arranged by Gil, himself. Where Electric Lady Big Band  differs is their focus on one complete Hendrix album under the guidance and vision of Ilett’s remarkable skills as a guitarist, vocalist and arranger. It might seem  an unorthdox combination – how can a big band mix with psychedelic blues, acidy rock and make them suitable bedfellows? It does though, as the two forces have so much in common despite their perceived stylistic differences. The inspired and gritty solos of saxophonists Iain Ballamy, Pee Wee Ellis and Nathaniel Facey alongside, trombonist Winston Rollins and trumpeters Simon Gardner and Noel Langley convey the Hendix passion to great measure.

The 16 tracks that constitute Electric Lady Big Band are played in sequence presenting the listener with a suite, of a sort, a longer work, that, while being divided into separate tracks, struck this listener as an organically evolving 78-minute aural experience.

Denny Ilett says: “Electric Ladyland’s seamless combination of blues, rock, funk, jazz and pop makes it  [Hendrix’s] most experimental and personal work. The challenge of transcribing and arranging this album for a 16-piece big band is one that I took on with relish; particularly as the band itself feautures many of the UK’s most celebrated and daring improvisers. We have no idea whether he would approve of our interpretation of his music but we can certainly guarantee that we will play it with the utmost love and respect for one of the 20th century’s most iconic and important musical forces.”

Hear, hear, and mission accomplished. The Electric Lady Big Band under the stewardship of Denny Ilett has produced a unique and heartfelt testimony to the music and legacy of Jimi Hendrix. Let it continue to thrive in enternity.

Frank Griffith’s website 

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